Discord for changemakers: A guide to getting started, boosting impact, and building community

Written by Tereza Bízková

Tereza Bízková is the Ecosystem Communications Manager at Topl. Specializing in social impact and tech, Tereza combines her expertise in content creation, public relations, and research with a passion for storytelling to empower communities and drive meaningful change.
2023-07-03

In today’s world, we can rally entire global communities for positive change. Different digital platforms out there empower changemakers and impact projects to share updates, bring people together, and facilitate collaboration, knowledge exchange, and collective action.

Discord, a platform initially popular among gamers, is one of them. Now, you can hardly find a web3 project that doesn’t have its own server. Why? Well, who wouldn’t want to be able to take a question directly to the CTO? Have their support ticket resolved within an hour? Or participate in thoughtful discussions with like-minded people? Discord is a place where you can share your vision, attend town halls, participate in giveaways, and so much more… and that’s its magic.

From a new crypto-staking tool to an impact NFT project saving koalas, Discord has grown into a hub for diverse communities focused on a multitude of topics, including those eager to rebuild the pillars of our economic systems. From real-time chats to voice channels, the platform’s features can be tailored to meet the unique needs of changemakers and impact organizations.

Whether you’re a seasoned Discord user or new to the platform, let’s explore how to make the most out of it and build a connected, impact-driven community for your cause.

Getting started: Understanding Discord and its purpose

Joining Discord is fairly simple. You can begin by downloading the application, which is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. To stay connected on the go, you can also use the mobile app available both on Android and iOS devices. However, if you’re against downloading the app altogether, Discord can also be accessed through a web browser, offering practically the same functionality as its app counterparts.

The next step is to create an account. Click on the “Register” button and provide an email address, create a username, and set a password. We recommend you also set a two-factor authentication (2FA). Discord is big on security and privacy; there’re many different settings options, so be sure to take a few moments to adjust these to your comfort. 

Upon verifying your email, you’ll have full access to Discord’s features. You can then start exploring the vast universe of servers or even create your own. To join a server, you can search for it on the server discovery page, accept an invitation link from a friend, or click on a join link shared publicly. To create a server, simply click the ‘+’ icon on your server list, and follow the guided prompts. 

At its core, Discord aims to provide a space for communities to gather, share, and interact. It achieves this through diverse features that enable real-time communication, collaboration, and resource sharing:

  • Servers and Channels: Discord communities exist within “servers”, each comprising numerous “channels”. You can think of a server as a digital clubhouse dedicated to a specific topic or group, with various rooms (channels) for different conversations or activities. Channels can be designated for text, voice, or video communications, allowing a mix of synchronous and asynchronous interactions.
  • Roles and Permissions: Roles are a way of managing users’ permissions within a server. They can determine who can access certain channels, send messages, or manage the server. This flexibility is vital in shaping a safe and effective communication environment catered to your community’s specific needs.
  • Direct Messages (DMs): Beyond public channels, Discord provides the option for 1-1 or small group private conversations through direct messages. This feature can be useful for confidential discussions, mentorship, or simply building closer relationships within your community. Yet, it’s important to exercise caution and consider disabling DMs from strangers to minimize the risk of phishing or fraud attempts.

Discord dynamics: Maximizing for impact

For changemakers and impact projects, Discord can become a flourishing ecosystem where ideas are born, impactful actions take shape, and change is catalyzed. So, once you’re up and running, it’s time to see how you can utilize the platform for maximal value. 

Voice channels offer a unique real-time interactive experience. They tend to be accessible 24/7, meaning you can jump in any time and engage in energetic exchanges with other server members. You can also join stages, which host more coordinated events, usually found in the events list on the top left side of your screen, enabling you to set reminders.

Text channels, on the other hand, serve as the foundation for asynchronous conversations. You can use them to engage in discussions, share resources, stay connected with projects and their updates, conduct polls, get feedback, or spark conversation around a topic.

Overall, these are some activities you can consider as a changemaker or an impact project:

  • Explore servers: Seek out and join servers of organizations, causes, or movements that align with your interests and goals. It’s an easy way to stay abreast of recent developments, participate in ongoing discussions, and contribute to collective actions. For example, in the regenerative finance (ReFi) space, many accelerators and working groups have their own server (or at least a channel). 
  • Exchange resources: Discord is a great place to share and access valuable resources, including research papers, articles, toolkits, event invitations, and even investor contacts. So, make sure to make the most out of that!
  • Connect to live shows or panels: Attend live shows, panels, and webinars. These events are often hosted by experts in the field, providing valuable insights and opportunities for real-time interaction. Who knows? By actively participating and sharing your unique perspective, you might get an invitation to be a speaker one day, too!
  • Network: Discord can be a powerful networking platform. Engage in discussions, collaborate on projects, and build relationships with like-minded individuals and organizations. These connections can lead to collaborations and partnerships, furthering your impact as a changemaker.

It might take some time and effort to get involved in these activities—but trust us, it’s worth it! The key is to join with an open mind, be ready to share your ideas, and offer to help others. The more you dig into Discord, the more you’ll amplify your voice and inspire more positive impact.

Building community: Setting up your own Discord server

The intriguing thing about Discord is that it allows you to talk with people rather than at people. As a changemaker, it allows you to create an authentic space to engage directly with your community and even get to know its members on a personal level.

When setting up your own server, these are the steps to follow:

  • Creating the server: Starting a server is as simple as clicking the ‘+’ icon on your server list and following the prompts. Choose a name that aligns with your organization and resonates with your target community. Then, upload a custom server icon for better visibility and branding.
  • Setting up channels: Channels are where the real conversations happen. It’s best to start with a few basic channels (like general chat, announcements, resources, random, or even GM 🌞) and add more as your community grows. A ‘welcome’ or ‘start-here’ channel can be invaluable for onboarding new members. Remember, you can also set a description for each channel, guiding its intended use.
  • Managing roles and permissions: Create roles reflecting the different levels of access and responsibilities within your organization. This can range from admins and moderators to volunteers and general members. With roles, you can manage who can view, send messages, or manage channels, ensuring a smooth and secure operation. For example, you can promote an esteemed community member to a moderator. 

While Discord offers a high level of customizability, any improvements made to your server dynamics should be made based on the needs of your community. For example, it’s useful to look at the journey of users—from onboarding to engagement. You may want to create a streamlined onboarding process for new members, outlining the server’s rules, purpose, and a brief channel navigation guide. Then, think about the best way to interact with them, whether it’s discussions, polls, events, or casual chats.

At Topl, one of our favorite ways to connect with the broader impact community in web3 is by hosting stages. While only authorized speakers can contribute, there’s also a side text chat that allows anyone to chime in or ask questions—so it’s great for Q&A sessions, too. If you’d like to host your own stage, these are a few tips you might find helpful:

  • Setting up: Start by creating a new stage channel within your server. Once you’re ready to begin, you can invite speakers, and they’ll appear alongside you on stage.
  • Scheduling: Discord allows you to schedule stage events in advance. This way, you can notify your community and market the event on other platforms to drive attendance. On top of that, the events list allows you to track the number of users that sign up.
  • Customizing the experience: From cool lounge tunes to assigning speaker rights, there are various ways to personalize your event. Doing a test round before running your first event might be a good idea! 
  • Moderating: Once the event starts, it’s essential to have a moderator that manages speakers, addresses audience questions, and ensures the conversation stays on track.

Another useful practice for your server is to leverage bots for automation and engagement. Bots like MEE6, Helper.gg, or GAwesome Bot can help moderate your server, automate welcoming new members, schedule events, manage roles, and much more. You can also use them to gamify participation, incentivizing your community to engage more frequently in your impact conversations. At Topl, we run a fun engagement ranking with ProBot.

Ultimately, all your Discord-related decisions should be driven by your determination to create a safe and respectful environment for your community. Use Discord’s settings and moderation tools to set appropriate rules, manage permissions, and monitor the activity on your server. Review and adjust these settings regularly to ensure your server remains a safe and inclusive space for impact conversations. Some servers even set up an abuse reporting channel or a private ticketing system for this purpose.

What about DAOs?

By now, you might have guessed that the community-centric design of Discord makes it a great fit for Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). The ability to establish various channels for diverse discussions, designate roles for different member categories, and integrate seamlessly with web3 interfaces only contributes to the allure.

DAOs might create different channels for funding proposals, governance discussions, or even the future direction of the organization. To keep the members involved, they can leverage the different features to host AMAs with project leaders, idea-sharing sessions, or even give a shoutout to members that step up. And by using bots, DAOs can handle many tasks automatically, like sending out reminders to vote, counting up the votes, or tracking activity.
In a world where digital platforms are at the heart of community-building and mobilization, Discord gives changemakers and impact projects the ability to turn online dialogue into tangible, real-world action. If you want to learn more, there’s no better way than by joining our Discord server and continuing exploring its exciting universe with us.

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